A Home for the Holidays

The search for a new normal has been anything but.
You can help us give shelter from this storm and rebuild a brighter future…

“Unity Project not only helped me get off the street and to overcome addiction, they helped me to keep my place while I was in hospital and supported me throughout my long recovery at home. I’m still here, and now I support Unity Project however I can.” – former Unity Project participant

This year there has been a lot of talk about a “new normal” and it is true that things may never be quite the same again.

But we can’t accept this deepening housing and homelessness crisis.

It is a crisis that will only get worse if we do not reinvigorate the appetite for systemic change that we collectively experienced early in the momentous days of 2020.

With your support we have adapted and survived.
It’s time to move forward together and thrive.

Model house on hat
Boots on winter ground

Reimagining our Unity Project…

At the outset of the pandemic, we fled our cramped and ill-equipped Old East Village facility and reimagined our emergency shelter operations in the relative safety of a hotel.

We expanded to meet the needs of our community, nearly doubling our capacity and sharpening our competencies for helping people with complex housing requirements – physical and mental health conditions and disabilities, including couples and people with pets.

After provincial pandemic funding ended, City Council confirmed additional funding to continue our hotel response for 50 participants and their many furry friends…until March 31, 2023

A deadline with purpose…

For Unity Project, the “new normal” means endemic versus pandemic.

It means we can’t take our expanded emergency shelter back to our previous location. It simply cannot safely accommodate the number and needs of the people and pets we now serve.

It also means we have to be out of the hotel by March 31st.

Finding a new and appropriate home is daunting, but it presents us with the opportunity to rebuild with intention, love, and purpose.

A better home for Unity…

We need to build a facility which truly facilitates our Housing First mission to make a stay at our shelter as comfortable, productive and short as possible.

Our participants need a facility that accommodates their pets and their medical, cultural and gender needs. It also needs to support longer stays for people with more complex housing requirements and the increased difficulty they face in this crisis.

Your support moves us! You have helped our residents to navigate their difficult journey from street to home—from the emergency intake to housing and stability. Thanks to you, nearly 100% of Unity Project participants now exit our shelter to housing. It’s taking longer, but you give us the resources and space to do the work.

Sadly, more people are coming to us all the time. To better serve them, and to make every moment count towards ending their experience of homelessness, Unity Project needs a proper home.

Newspaper - Tent City, 2001
Unity Project's outside door with the words respect, cooperation, interdependence, compassion.

A temporary solution…

The privacy afforded by the hotel has brought our participants greater security and comfort.

Being able to remain with a loved one, be they human or pet, and being able to keep their personal belongings worry-free has made all the difference for some of our residents.

Wide hallways and elevators increased accessibility for people with disabilities and wheelchairs. Plus, it gave us the opportunity to develop critical health system partnerships that could serve residents in their private quarters.

But lack of community space and social isolation can be the enemy of hope and recovery, and potentially dangerous for medically compromised and marginalized individuals, especially amidst an opioid crisis.

The perfect place

Unity Project has made many moves since our Tent City beginnings.

Many things have helped us determine what’s needed in our intentionally-designed, purpose-built shelter facility. We’re informed by over two decades of experience, our attention to Housing-First best practices, together with our participatory values of respect, cooperation, interdependence and compassion.

We need a space that functions somewhere in between an institutional facility and a home—the bricks and mortar of that pathway should begin at front-door stabilization through to housing and stability.

Our participants need and deserve that perfect place.

People come to us for many reasons…

The individual stories of people experiencing homelessness are nearly impossible to tell with truth not trope—though each one is compelling and worthy.

Ultimately, they come to us because they can’t pay the rent.

Some inherit their poverty, and are more vulnerable to the blows that life can deal—discrimination, abuse, trauma, job-loss, age, illness, injury, grief, or their own mistakes.

Some are pregnant, have physical or cognitive disabilities, are terminally-ill, blind, deaf or hard of hearing, or suffer debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s or dementia.

Some use drugs and alcohol, and/or struggle with mental health issues—conditions which often develop or worsen following their homelessness, rather than being the sole cause of it.

Some have families who desperately worry for them. Some have no one—or no one who can support them.

Man blowing hands to keep warm.

This is a crisis…

The cost of living has risen sharply… with no increase to shamefully low social assistance rates.*

Housing and rental prices have massively increased… while some rent controls have even been removed.

This and more, brings more and more people into homelessness, and escaping it becomes a much harder journey.

The desperation on our streets and in the neighbourhoods where we live and work can challenge one’s compassion.

But we must challenge ourselves to keep this crisis in perspective.

*Ontario Works received no increase despite a $735M savings last year due to full employment, and while ODSP rates did increase by 5% that really means an increase of just $58/month.

A path forward…

Thanks to you we are moving in the right direction.

We are beginning to see our vision for a “new normal” that will benefit the people of our community.

We will move to another temporary location while we secure and ready our dream home.

But we can’t do it alone.

Your support is vital to ensure that Unity Project’s doors remain wide open for relief of homelessness in London.

We’re all in this together…

This crisis affects us all, and it will take a solution that involves us all.

From our frontline workers who make every moment count towards housing and stability, to our community partners who collaborate with us towards improved policies and responses⁠—everyone has a critical role to play.

With passionate supporters by our side, we will continue to work to end homelessness in our community.

Will you join us in finding a solution and fight along with us?

Tent City, 2001

Our roots

Tent City protest, Victoria Park, 2001.

Give generously this holiday season…

Please accept my gift!